The real value of recycling will never be adequately measured until our economic metrics include the value of lost resources and the impacts of our waste and pollution on the planet. While the focus on markets and what we should do about them is certainly important, we all need to truly remember and embrace the true worth of recycling in reducing our ecological footprint. Our growing rates of consumerism, lack of recycling, the rising number of consumer goods that cannot be repaired or recycled, and built-in obsolescence must become focal points of our discussions as well.
• Once blue wrap has been used in hospitals for sterilization, it is usually landfilled despite being a clean and useful fabric • Blue wrap is a plastic fabric that is exactly the same as the material used for reusable shopping bags • Billions of reusable shopping bags made from extracted resources are shipped across the world and imported to the U.S. • We could be creating jobs, decreasing our waste, and fighting climate change by making bags domestically out of this blue wrap waste product instead of importing. • The Recycling industry is being strained by extraction of cheap natural gas in the U.S. and China no longer accepting recyclables, this is increasing the need for repurposing. In the United States we dispose of 200 million lbs of plastic #5 that is perfectly clean and reusable, while simultaneously importing around 100 million lbs of the same exact material, mostly from East Asia.
Kids learn about natural circles in school like the water cycle. The big idea there is rain falls, then evaporates back into the air, before coming down again as rain somewhere else.Despite this simple training in circles, most of us think in lines. In a linear world, we fail to see the connection between precipitation and evaporation, or soil health and the quality of our food. In agriculture, line-based thinking has led to problems. For decades, farmers have believed using chemical fertilizers increases their output of plants. Like a line, they believe one always leads to the other, failing to consider impacts on the rest of the ecosystem. The eventual result is a breakdown of natural cycles on their farms. By understanding natural cycles, farmers can adapt and work with those cycles to see their land thrive for generations to come.
Recycling is a dynamic process forced to change as products evolve and markets fluctuate. Recycling is in the news and not in a good way. Newspapers and television news shows are full of stories about its apparent death. If they are right, then recycling is doomed in this country. The good news is they are wrong. Yes, municipal recycling programs are facing serious problems. Clearly this latest crisis will not be resolved overnight. Instead of panicking, however, we should take a deep breath and calm down. Recyclables are just another raw material whose prices fluctuate. The light is clearly shining at the end of this tunnel. It’s a long tunnel, and the train is moving slowly, but I see no reason to panic.